Buying of the President

Published — October 21, 2016

Whoops: Pro-Donald Trump super PAC publishes donor credit card numbers

In this Monday, Sept. 12, 2016 photo, David A. Clarke Jr., Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis., and Donald Trump supporter, arrives on the Great America PAC bus for a town hall meeting in Lake Mary, Fla. The Great America PAC is rolling through battleground states, opening offices and registering voters. Presidential hopefuls often embark on bus tours to meet voters across the country. This time, a super PAC is standing in for Republican nominee Donald Trump. (AP/John Raoux)

Screw-up follows September reveal of supporters’ cell phone, email information.

This article was co-published with NBC News.


A pro-Donald Trump super PAC needs to make its accounting practices great again — if they ever were in the first place.

Great America PAC on Thursday night erroneously published the credit card numbers and expiration dates belonging to 49 donors, a Center for Public Integrity review of its latest Federal Election Commission campaign finance disclosure discovered.

The screw-up comes one month after the super PAC, which aims to “help grow the burgeoning movement behind Donald Trump and merge the grassroots with the business community,” mistakenly revealed the personal cell phone numbers and/or email addresses of 336 of its donors.

Great America PAC treasurer Dan Backer, upon being informed by the Center for Public Integrity of his organization’s mistake, said the likely culprit is “an isolated software glitch in an otherwise automated process” involving data transfers between the PAC and a contractor that helps manage the group’s finances.

He vowed to immediately rectify the situation by contacting affected donors, encouraging them to cancel their credit cards and offering to pay for “long-term extended identity theft monitoring and protection.” Any Great America PAC donor who requests a refund “will of course get one,” Backer said.

“Going forward, there’s going to be some unpleasant conversations with the compliance staff about these issues,” Backer added.

Great America PAC also this morning asked the FEC to remove from the public record the September campaign finance report that contained donors’ credit card numbers. It’s a highly unusual request to make of the election agency, which usually requires groups correct filing errors by submitting amended reports to appear on the public record alongside their original reports.

But Great America PAC’s situation is itself unusual, given that political candidates and political committees almost never inadvertently release donor credit card information as part of the mandatory reports they regularly file with federal election regulators.

The FEC said in a statement today that the agency is “aware of the filing and has taken measures to safeguard personal information while upholding its disclosure obligations.”

By late morning, the FEC had removed the Great America PAC filing containing donor credit card information. Agency spokesman Christian Hilland confirmed that FEC officials are working to redact Great America PAC’s original filing so it no longer displays donor credit card numbers.

Trump himself has had a curious relationship with Great America PAC, as his campaign formally disavowed it in April in a letter to the FEC. Despite that, Trump’s son, Eric Trump, appeared at a fundraiser for the group in September.

Great America PAC reported almost $2.7 million cash on hand going into October, according to FEC records. It raised $3.1 million and spent more than $2.8 million in September.

In all, it’s raised more than $14.3 million this year, mostly from people making small, online contributions.

The group has indeed spent several million dollars on advocacy efforts overtly promoting Trump, including advertisements, calls to voters and a bus tour. That ranks it among the election cycle’s most prominent pro-Trump super PACs — political committees that may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for and against political candidates. Bill Doddridge, chief executive of the Jewelry Exchange, is a top funder.

But it also has poured millions of dollars into expenses, such as consulting fees and fundraising expenses, that don’t directly benefit Trump in his bid to beat Democrat Hillary Clinton and win the White House.

In September alone, Great America PAC spent nearly $100,000 on staffing and consultants, including a $20,000 payment to Ed Rollins, the group’s national co-chairman, who was Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign manager in 1984. It also paid its financial and donation processing consultants nearly $78,000 last month, FEC records show.

Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone in May accused Great America PAC of being a “scam.”

But Rollins has advertised the group as essential to Trump’s success.

“If our fundraising doesn’t hit our marks — who knows what will happen to this country,” Rollins wrote in a fundraising message to supporters today. “AND WE CANNOT LEAVE IT UP TO CHANCE.”

Read more in Money and Democracy

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